Updated: Aug 30
By Pauline Stewart.
No one can take liability for injury lightly. The Department of Conservation cannot, and this could well be part of the reasoning behind the decision. Let’s not forget Cave creek (1995) and White Island. These situations are extreme, but they happened, when no one thought they could or would. Then there is the element of cost. To make the whole track useable again is a huge cost. That expense is connected to all of the other costs for cyclone recovery, many of which have not even commenced. All drivers can list some urgent spend required by DOC, TCDC and/or Waka Kotahi to enable for the Summer to be accessible and safe for our residents and all visitors.
But there are options for the Cathedral Cove walk. On a nearby property, there is another track and a carpark. It’s big carpark and quite a lot of financial investment has improved the track, access and the carpark (private expense). This track links to the existing DOC track just above the steep descent to the beach. It is at this point where the worst slip and collapse has occurred. There are many other parts of the track along the coast e.g., Gemstone Bay, that have experienced damage, but these are not part of the direct DOC walk to the Cove; hence not as urgent. If only this section could be addressed and connect with the private property alternative walk - It is known that the Geotech engineers of Tonkin and Taylor have worked out a practical design to construct a stairway for this section that makes it possible for walkers to access Cathedral Cove. The liability for the individual remains and in the words of Tinaka Mearns, “We have determined that the level of risk is at the top of our level of comfort,” should be considered carefully. The words “strongly encourage you not to walk, not to enter the cave on the beach were used several times during the media briefing several days ago. ’
Nick Kelly, DOC Coromandel Operations Manager reported that as yet there has been no specific detailed research done on other options for access. Hence there is hope in this other option. Previously, it was thought that usage of this might take away from businesses in Hahei but it would seem now that exploring and committing some energy to this possibility might be much better than having no realistic access to the Cove by foot. Any summer walk will have visitors looking for cold drinks, coffee, food and of course, macadamias.
There is a very disappointed Hahei and Hot Water Beach community. This news is a blow to the whole Peninsula, and it is a blow to tourists. It will be still a glorious experience to see Cathedral Cove by water and even to access the beach (at your own risk). It is less glorious if one cannot use the toilets at the far end of the beach (they are decommissioned) but the reality of this has to remain as DOC cannot take responsibility for anyone wishing to experience Te Whanganui-A-Hei.
Budget restraints and the risk of injury will not disappear any time soon. We know DOC is not hamstrung by skill and knowledge, so if there is a way to work with the locals on another piece of land and with existing geo tech reports and expertise to create a confined opportunity to walk to the cove and visit a bathroom, then why not make it happen? The summer could be longer than we think, and it is a good time to work outdoors fixing what is broken.
Caption: Visitors to Cathedral Cove.